He Said, She Said – Sweet Caroline’s in the Fenway

Part of the occasional series The Fenway: One Bite at a Time

The sketchy signage

Katrin – Located at 1260 Boylston Street, just one block from Fenway Park, Sweet Caroline’s is in a space that has been home to some rather short-lived restaurants and bars in recent years, including a chicken wing place and a Mexican cantina. Every time I pass it and see the flimsy banner tied over the entrance I wonder if the owners are expecting Sweet Caroline’s to meet the same fate and have decided not to invest in more permanent signage.  By virtue of a menu laden with burgers and simple comfort food, a lengthy beer list, and the wall of flat-screen TVs, Sweet Caroline’s is clearly geared toward the crowds that gather before Red Sox games to eat and drink and to the ticketless who are not members of Jerry Remy’s Season Pass club across the street. With the Red Sox’s epic fail and subsequent short season, September 2011 must have been an inauspicious time to open such an establishment if ever there was one. But with a Groupon burning in my wallet and knowing that the restaurant had several months to work out the kinks, Glenn and I decided to give yet another Fenway sports bar a try.

Glenn – I arrived before Katrin and immediately was impressed with the lay out of the bar and restaurant. The lower level comprises the dining area – no TVs – and the upper level the bar – mucho TVs. The decor features wood in various warm tones offset by stone accents. The focal point is the wonderful large vertical garden occupying one wall of the dining area, an installation resembling either a “Jeff Koons goes minimalist” piece or a Hans Hacke system. While waiting, I checked out the cocktail menu – many contemporary “martinis”; the wine list – suitable only for the most casual of wine drinkers; and finally the beer list – draft and cans. I chose the Magic Hat Spring Seasonal “Vinyl Lager” – good but not as compelling as Sam Adams most current lager, “Alpine Spring”.

Katrin – Glenn and I opted to go on a Wednesday night, because the bar offered Wine Flight Wednesdays. Unfortunately, they had discontinued it. Not that it was much of a loss as the wine list was about as pedestrian and uninteresting as it gets.  Despite the lack of good wine choices, I did end up ordering a glass of the Cupcake Malbec. This was only after a failed attempt to order a Negroni. After looking up the recipe and searching the liquor bottles, our bartender reported that the bar doesn’t stock Campari. (Seriously? What kind of a bar doesn’t carry Campari?) As for the food, it should be passable for the suburbanites with Applebee’s-trained palates heading to the “big city.” I ordered the steak tips, which were served lukewarm and had a weirdly sweet and unappealing marinade. The sweet potato fries were tasty, but limp and almost mushy. The house-made onion rings, however, were crisp and well-made.

Steak tips and the notable onion rings

Glenn – A good portion of the menu of the menu is devoted to salads – four small salads and six large salads – all of which can be enhanced with various meats. I guess these provide a healthy option for those not following the “off to hell-in-a-handbasket” burger diet. As an adherent of the latter, I chose the bleu cheese burger described thusly –

“Hand stuffed with bleu cheese, topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms and smoked bacon on a grilled bulkie roll 11.99”

Pros – generously sized = good value; sturdy bun; tasty onions and mushrooms; bacon cooked the way I like it – not too crisp. Cons – the burger was not stuffed with blue cheese ; the cheese came atop; wrong temperature – I specified medium rare, it arrived medium to medium well; the burger was somewhat dry. My overall assessment – B-. I also ordered the sweet potato fries – tasty but limp. I’m sometimes nostalgic for the days when MacDonalds fried their frites in lard.

The decent bleu cheese burger

Katrin – In this time of interconnectedness and viral information distribution, Sweet Caroline’s has managed to do something I find remarkable: it has almost no on-line buzz. I couldn’t help but compare it to Sweet Cheeks Q, which opened shortly after Sweet Caroline’s did just a couple of blocks down Boylston Street. It may be an unfair comparison given that powerhouse Tiffani Faisson is behind Sweet Cheeks Q, but a quick look shows Sweet Cheeks Q with 159 Yelp reviews, 13 Urban Spoon reviews, 20 Google reviews, and nearly 1200 Twitter followers. In contrast, Sweet Caroline’s has only 31 Yelp reviews, no Urban Spoon reviews, 3 Google reviews, and a not even 120 Twitter followers (this could in part be due to the fact that their account – @sweet_crln – is almost impossible to find unless you are on their website). But reviews aren’t everything, right?

Sweet Caroline's on Urbanspoon

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One Response to “He Said, She Said – Sweet Caroline’s in the Fenway”

  1. March 9, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    saying it’s stuffed with bleu cheese and not actually stuffing it with bleu cheese is a major turn off! sweet cheeks for the win

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